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The backbone of our nation

It might be tough to believe that we reached this point in the year, but today is indeed Labor Day.

More than a day off that punctuates the just-begun school year, it’s an opportunity to think about the contribution of working Americans to the nation, their families and their communities.

Labor Day came about in 1894 with a declaration by the federal government and is, according to the Census Bureau “a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century and pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”

A mouthful, to be sure, but it’s more than just the conclusion of a three-day weekend for most, or one last chance to fire up the grill.

In our region, Labor Day was, for much of the past several generations and up until a few years ago, a time to reflect on the status of the local steel mills, which employed thousands who were part of the bulwarks of the organized labor movement.

As the mills shrank and the presence of the big unions contracted, it became easy to see Labor Day as just another holiday.

Except that there are still thousands who are going to work every day, from those employed in heavy industry to power plants to hospitals to centers of higher education, to retail, to the oil and gas fields and plants, and, yes, still, in steel.

Health care professionals have been working tirelessly for months now, fighting the battle against COVID-19. Police officers and firefighters work to keep our communities safe.

Teachers have been working to find new ways to educate students in the midst of an unprecendented pandemic.

Think about all of them today, as well as the men and women who work to keep stores operating and shelves stocked, as well as everyone who is employed in area restaurants and the dedicated public workers whose efforts keep our vital services functioning.

The work done by everyone remains important to our society, and we need to recognize that not just today, but every day.

That means Labor Day is, in other words, a day to grill burgers, enjoy one last easy summer day with family members and be thankful that the ever-changing work force continues to provide the backbone of the nation.

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